Government narrowly wins Post Office vote

The government has narrowly averted losing a Commons vote calling for the planned Post Office closures to be suspended.

The Conservative vote was defeated by 268 to 288, slashing the government’s majority of 67, and at least 19 Labour MPs voted with the opposition.

Shadow business secretary Alan Duncan said the government had “just squeaked home” on the vote.

“The power of argument has overcome the power of their whips,” he said.

“The hunt will now be on for all those Labour MPs who have pretended to support their local post office and then done a runner when they had a chance to make a real difference.”

Labour rebel John McDonnell said the vote was a “huge embarrassment” to the government and showed that concern among a “large number” of Labour MPs was such that they are “even prepared to support a Tory motion”.

“The government has always underestimated the strength of anger on Labour benches against the privatisation and cuts in this essential public service,” he added.

The Conservatives have threatened to name and shame Labour MPs who had campaigned against closures in their constituencies but supported the government’s plan.

According to the Conservatives, at least 90 Labour MPs, including seven Cabinet ministers, have campaigned against local closures.

Ministers argue it is not inconsistent to object to specific closures while still recognising the need to reduce the network.

The government plans to close 2,500 sub-post offices and Gordon Brown told the Commons yesterday the network is losing £500,000 a day.

The prime minister said the Conservatives were not offering any extra cash to save the Post office, arguing “unfunded promises are empty and hollow promises to the people of this country”.

Post Office minister Pat McFadden said the Post Office has fewer customers and is suffering from heavy losses.